Reality of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal awaits next president of US

WASHINGTON — If North Korea has been a foreign policy headache for Barack Obama’s presidency, it threatens to be a migraine for his successor. The next president will likely contend with an adversary able to strike the continental U.S. with a nuclear weapon.

Whoever wins the White House in the Nov. 8 election is expected to conduct a review of North Korea policy. It’s too early to predict what that portends, but the North will grab more attention of the next president than it did for Obama, who adopted strategic patience: ramping up sanctions in a so-far fruitless effort to force the North to negotiate on denuclearization.

With surprising candor this week, National Intelligence director James Clapper said that persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons is probably a “lost cause.” That appeared to challenge to a key tenet of U.S. policy shared by U.S. allies and adversaries alike that agree on the goal of the denuclearization of the divided Korean Peninsula, however distant it may be.

But Clapper was also channeling what many experts are thinking. Leader Kim Jong Un appears to see nuclear weapons as a guarantee of his own survival. Six-nation aid-for-disarmament talks have not convened since Obama took office in 2009, during which time the North’s capabilities have leapt ahead.

“Without a shift in U.S. strategy toward North Korea, the next U.S. president will likely be sitting in the Oval Office when the regime finally acquires the ability to strike the continental United States with a nuclear weapon,” said a recent Council on Foreign Relations report.

Speaking at the council in New York on Tuesday, Clapper said that North Korea has yet to test its KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile, so it is unclear if it works, but the U.S. operates on the “worst-case” assumption that Pyongyang is potentially capable of launching a missile with a weapon on it that could reach Alaska and Hawaii.

Experts have estimated the missile, which can be moved by road, making it harder to target in a pre-emptive strike, could be operational by around 2020.

 

With five nuclear tests now under its belt, the North may already be able to miniaturize a warhead for use on a short-range missile, if not on an intercontinental missile. It has also launched two rockets into space, and has begun testing submarine-launched missiles. U.S. experts estimate that it now has 13 to 21 nuclear weapons, and could have as many as 100 by 2020 — approaching what India likely has today.

Clapper said the best hope for the U.S. is probably to negotiate a cap on the North’s nuclear capabilities. But that implies recognition of North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, which the U.S. has said it will not do.

“The dilemma for policymakers in dealing with North Korea is that if one accepts that the door to negotiation of denuclearization with North Korea is closed, the alternative set of options involves either acquiescence to a nuclear North Korea on the one hand or pressure leading to regime change on the other,” said Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the council.

Of the U.S. presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton wants the international community to intensify sanctions as the Obama administration did with Iran, which eventually opened the way for a deal to contain its nuclear program.

Divining what Republican Donald Trump might do is tricky. He wants the U.S. to leverage its trade ties to get China to rein in its unpredictable ally. But he’s also said he’d be ready to meet Kim, and suggested detaching the U.S. from the problem by allowing its allies Japan and South Korea to get nuclear weapons.

U.S. experts who held unofficial talks with North Korean officials in Malaysia last week maintain that negotiations on denuclearization are still possible.

“I think the best course would be to test the proposition by some serious engagement in which we see whether their (North Korea’s) legitimate security concerns can be met,” said Robert Gallucci, who negotiated a 1994 disarmament agreement that curbed North Korea’s nuclear program for nearly 10 years.

He added that the concerns of neighboring South Korea and Japan — they face the most immediate threat from Pyongyang — would also have to be met.

“We don’t know for sure that negotiations will work, but what I can say with some confidence is that pressure without negotiations won’t work, which is the track we are on right now,” said another participant, Leon Sigal from the New York-based Social Science Research Council.

But there is a deep, bipartisan skepticism in Washington about talks with Pyongyang, which has recanted on past accords and says it will never give up its nuclear weapons. It claims it needs nukes to deter an invasion by the U.S., which has 28,500 troops in South Korea.

Still, North Korea has not entirely closed the door to talks.

A July government statement suggested it remained open to discussions on denuclearization of the peninsula. The U.S., however, slapped sanctions on Kim the same day for human rights abuses. The North said that was tantamount to declaring war.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like